When I was a kid, I was quiet and a bit of an introvert. When I started out in the business world, I was an awkward 15-year-old kid who hadn’t yet grown comfortable in his 6’4″ frame. And although in my world today I enjoy connecting with people, speaking on the telephone (including cold calling), I remember how tough it can be for someone who may not naturally be outwardly focused. I also have a team of people I work with each day, and some of my team members are introverts.
The Misconception About Introverts
I think the biggest misconception about introverts is that they don’t like people. Not true. Many introverts enjoy getting to know people and many extroverts don’t like people. People also make an assumption that introverts are shy and extroverts are the life of the party. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely accurate.
The difference between introverts and extroverts is how they recharge. What I mean by that is that when introverts need to recharge their mind, body, and soul, they prefer to do it alone; extroverts, on the other hand, want to do it with a group of people.
How do you know if you’re an introvert or an extrovert? Well, the test is simple.
If you feel invigorated spending lots of time with people, you’re probably an extrovert. And, if when you’re in groups, you tend to find your energy becoming depleted after a time, you’re more than likely an introvert.
Networking for Introverts and Extroverts
Imagine now networking for business, which is something that most people have to do to be successful. For extroverts, attending conferences and meetings are energizing. They love this stuff. Mention a conference, and the extrovert is there; the introvert, not so much.
So, how can an introvert successfully network? Networking is essential for finding a new job or developing business for entrepreneurs. Here’s the deal—it doesn’t have to be anxiety inducing.
- Start online: Aren’t introverts lucky in this day and age? We have the Internet. We have plenty of groups and platforms that any introvert can research and participate in all from the comfort of a computer. LinkedIn, Facebook groups, Meet-Ups and a host of others (e.g. professional associations) offer an opportunity for any introvert to meet people and participate in discussions before attending any meeting, event or conference.
- Focus on Strengths: Most introverts prefer dealing with people one-on-one or speaking in small group settings. Take advantage of that strength. Instead of focusing on going to large events, play to your natural abilities. If there is a small meet-up group gathering at a local co-working space, see about attending it. Alternately, once you’ve found someone close to you, meet this person for a 30-minute cup of coffee. It’s a quick and defined meeting.
- Be Prepared: Before any meeting or networking event, be prepared. You’ll be asked by someone to share a little bit about yourself. Practice your elevator pitch. Give a concise version of what you do and give the person who’s asking one or two points about what you’re looking to achieve. If you’re feeling comfortable, ask the person to think about you if they happen to know someone who’s in need of what you can deliver.
- Maintain Relationships: One of the things I’ve learned in business and life is to go the extra mile. Maintain relationships. When you’ve met with people whom you connect with, keep the relationship growing. Email them from time to time with something of interest to them. Pick of the telephone and give them a call and ask for their advice. People like to give you their opinions and advice. If you’re friendly with some individuals in business, go out with them every once in a while for lunch, or even a business dinner.
- Big League Events: Finally, more than likely, you’ll probably end up attending a big event or conference. I think a lot of people feel uncomfortable at those types of functions. Remember that. For all of the happy back-slapping and laughing that you see at these things, I can bet you that up to half the attendees are introverts and not feeling very comfortable no matter how it might seem. Once you realize you’re not alone, it should help you be more at ease.
There’s also another little strategy you can use to help you work the room. Just have a lot of really quick conversations. If you know of someone, you can just quickly introduce yourself, “Hi, I’m sorry to interrupt. I wanted to meet with you, but I see your busy. May I just get your business card, and I can drop you an email after the conference?” Or, you can try this one, “Sorry to interrupt. I’m leaving in a few minutes, but I see from the (title/organization) on your name tag that you’re one of the people I wanted to meet. You do great work. May I have your business card and I’ll send you an email after the event as a follow-up?” Collect business cards. Most people at networking events and conferences don’t mind handing their business cards. Then, follow-up with an email or a phone call.
Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)
© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.